Bird of the Week: Scarlet Tanager

TEN FACTS ABOUT Scarlet Tanager

1. Scarlet Tanager are a member of the Cardinalidae family – which consists of brightly colored birds (like the Northern Cardinal and Indigo Bunting). Most members of this family are seed-eaters and have conical shaped beaks that aid them in crushing seeds hulls – the Scarlet Tanager however, does not eat seeds and does not have a conical beak.

2. Scarlet Tanager are migratory, they breed in Eastern North America and winter in South America.

3. Scarlet Tanager breed in large tracts of forest that feature tall, broad-leaf deciduous trees, like: Oak, Beech, Hickory, Maple, and Birch.

4. While Scarlet Tanager are most often seen foraging in the upper canopy of trees, they will occasionally forage in the understory of the forest and sometimes even on the ground.


Female Scarlet Tanager on the ground

Female Scarlet Tanager on the ground


5. Scarlet Tanager primarily eat insects, though they will also eat fruit (especially during migration), caterpillars are a favorite insect food, while mulberries are a favorite fruit.


Scarlet Tanager Red Mulberry



6. When it comes to finding a Scarlet Tanager, the key is to listen for their robin-like song and distinctive “chick-burr” call. Once heard, look high in deciduous trees for an unmistakable bright red bird with black wings.

7. Forest fragmentation threatens Scarlet Tanager populations and makes the species more susceptible to Brown-Headed Cowbird nest parasitism.

8. Only breeding male Scarlet Tanager feature the characteristic scarlet-colored plumage, females and non-breeding males are olive colored.

9. While migrating, Scarlet Tanager occasionally stop in wooded backyards to refuel on food and water –  planting their favorite fruiting trees like Red Mulberry and Serviceberry and offering halved oranges may entice them to stop by.

10. Scarlet Tanager are widely considered one of North America’s most beautiful and exotic-looking birds.


Scarlet Tanager T-Shirt